2021 Local Elections in North Macedonia: A Prelude to Alternation of Power?

Prior to the 2021 elections, North Macedonia had an entrenched tradition of lo-cal-level voting for the central-level incumbent. The party leading the central government has always won most mayoral positions at the local elections since they were first held in 1996, making the lower-level contest a simple showcase of the support for the ruling parties. The October 2021 elections were quite different: the opposition right-wing Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organi-zation – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (Vnatreshna make-donska revolucionerna organizacija – Demokratska partija za makedonsko nacionalno edinstvo, VMRO-DPMNE) claimed a dominant win, resulting in a resignation of the ruling center-left Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (Soci-jaldemokratski sojuz na Makedonija, SDSM) Prime Minister (PM) Zaev and the appointment of a new government with changed personnel from the side of SDSM. This outcome is due to the general public’s disappointment with the performance of the SDSM-led government, especially regarding persistent cor-ruption, the inability to reinstate rule of law following the disclosed abuses from the Wiretapping Affair (2015), and the lack of further progress regarding EU-membership despite heavy national concessions such as the name change (2019). The election results can also be read as a symptom of the population’s major disillusionment with the prospect of opening EU accession negotiations soon. Following these developments, a change of power can be expected, with VMRO-DPMNE eyeing to reclaim the central government (after their 2017 exit) at the next parliamentary elections which could take place as late as 2024.

Jovan Bliznakovski

Jovan Bliznakovski

Jovan Bliznakovski is an Assistant professor in political science at the Institute for Sociological, Political and Juridical Research, Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. He holds a PhD in political studies from the University of Milan, Italy and MSc in political science from the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Bliznakovski’s current research is focused on political mobili-zation in the Western Balkan countries, with a focus on political clientelism and ethnic-based mobilization. In the period 2014–16, Bliznakovski served as program director of the Institute for Democracy Societas Civilis in Skopje (IDSCS).


Southeastern Europe